Good People, Bad Choices

choices1As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met [him]. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”  Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”   –Luke 17:11-19

In almost eight years of jail ministry, I am often asked, “What kind of people do you meet in jail?”  My response is usually, “I meet good people that have made some very bad choices!”

That’s right, most of the inmates I have worked with in jail are good people who have made some of the worst choices.  They really lack the decision making skills to make smart choices.

Take this week for example.  We had three inmates who lost loved ones to drugs in the recent past.  One woman told of how her boyfriend, “took his last breathe in her arms.”  A second woman had lost an aunt to heroine.  And a man had lost his wife to crystal meth.  All were in jail on their own drug charges!

You would think that watching a boyfriend die in your arms, or losing an aunt to drugs would cause you to examine your own life, your own addictions, and decide to get help.  But, no, the bad decisions just keep happening.decisions

And what I have witnessed is that one bad decision usually leads to another and the effect can be devastating.

Those bad decisions land you in jail, in the system.  Like the lepers in Luke’s gospel, you feel alone, ostracized, set apart from society, surrounded by others who have made similar bad decisions.  What can they do?

In Luke’s gospel, three things happened to the Samaritan.

  1.  He recognized he had a problem and was helpless to solve it alone.  He need help from a higher power, He needed God’s help!
  2. He prayed for that assistance, “Jesus have pity on me.” And the Lord cured him.
  3. He offered thanks for the miracle he received.  Unlike the other nine, he returned to Jesus and thanked him.  He expressed gratitude.

One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.  –Eleanor Roosevelt

Can I ask you a question?  What is your leprosy?

I don’t mean a skin disorder, I mean what is the thing that separates your from God and from others.  For many of the inmates I see, it is heroine, meth, alcohol, crack cocaine, pornography.

Yours may not be drugs or alcohol, but we all have our own personal leprosy, that one sin or one bad habit that keeps us from a relationship with our Lord.

Once we realize that we can’t handle it alone and need God’s help, we need to call on him for help through prayer.  A simple morning prayer I suggest to addicts is, “Lord, help me get through this day,” a day without drugs or alcohol or pornography.  And a simple evening prayer is, “Lord, thank you for your help this day.”

One day at a time, one good decision at a time, we learn to become better decision makers.  We never bat 1,000, but then, major league baseball’s batting champion doesn’t either.  He just has a good batting average.  And you can improve yours with prayer.

Ultimately, our lives are the sum total of the choices we make, let’s prayerfully choose wisely.

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